While majoring in chemistry at the University of California, Irvine, Ryan Johnstonbaugh realized he wanted a career in healthcare. But he couldn’t narrow his goals down to a specific field.
That changed when the Glendale, Ariz., native joined a hospital pharmacy team through the COPE health scholar program, a hands-on opportunity offered by UCLA. The experience, he said, made him fall in love with the clinical decision-making engaged in by pharmacists in navigating the complexities of patient care. “It’s almost like a puzzle trying to make sure that you find the right pieces to help improve the outcomes of the patient,” Johnstonbaugh said.
Johnstonbaugh, who is graduating with a Doctor of Pharmacy degree from the Mann School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, said he had long dreamed of attending USC. “When I had the eventual phone call offering admission, I immediately jumped on the chance,” he recalled. “It’s crazy to see that four years have passed so quickly since then.”
After entering the school in fall 2019, Johnstonbaugh’s pharmacy experience was turned upside-down by COVID-19. At community vaccine distribution clinics, he worked to reconstitute vaccines, getting them ready for administration. The number of inoculations being prepared each day was shocking, he said. “It was tiring some days with how much we had to do, but I am happy I got to play a part.”
Johnstonbaugh also served his peers as Class of 2023 board president of the Associated Students of the School of Pharmacy (ASSP). Acting as an intermediary between students and administration, he met with faculty to communicate student feedback about curricula and plan fundraising for student organizations. As the community adjusted to virtual and hybrid learning due to COVID-19, Johnstonbaugh led the effort to send student comments and suggestions to faculty.
His preparation at USC Mann, including work in helping meet the pandemic’s challenges, has set Johnstonbaugh up for a bright future, he said. He now works as an intern at Huntington Hospital in Pasadena and will soon begin the PGY-1 pharmacy residency program at San Diego Sharp Memorial Hospital. He said he felt at home during one of his Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experiences (APPE) rotations in an emergency department, and hopes to practice as a clinical pharmacist in emergency medicine. He’d also like to teach someday.
“I would be lying if I said I didn’t want to return to school in the future—not as a student but rather as a lecturer,” Johnstonbaugh said. “I gained so much from so many, and I can only hope that I can pass that forward.”
Ryan Johnstonbaugh will speak on behalf of the PharmD Class of 2023 at the 116th USC Mann Commencement on Saturday, May 13, 2023.